Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence

Lawrence Anthony owns a game reserve in South Africa, and ten years ago he was asked if he wanted to take nine elephants that were causing problems for their owners, since the head matriarch elephant was a genius at breaking out of any kind of enclosures. He agreed, and was launched headlong into a race to save and acclimate these animals before they were killed for their destructive behavior. Unfortunately, the matriarch and her baby had already been killed after their last escape, but Lawrence only finds this out while on his journey to pick up the herd. The remaining elephants by this time have become so traumatized that after they are transported back to Anthony’s reserve, they immediately break out again. Two of the adult elephants work together to topple a 30 foot tree onto the fence, breaking the wire, then find the energizer supplying the voltage for the reserve’s outside fence, and trample it into oblivion. By the time the herd is tracked down and ready to be brought back, the local wildlife rangers are alerted concerning the herd and want to put them down immediately. Anthony literally begs for their lives, and only succeeds by reminding them of the negative publicity that such a move would generate.

The story of the elephants and Anthony’s crusade to help them finally hinges on a radical decision on his part – to abandon the accepted ways of dealing with wild elephants, and try to reach out and persuade them of his sincerity and his commitment. Step by step he does this, and the beauty of this account is how believable it is. This is another one of the growing number of books that explores how we 'manage' animals, and how we can better relate to them, for their benefit and for ours.

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